A few days ago we reported about the police coming to the squats and arresting several people. These arrests have been going on for several weeks now and some of the people arrested are still in jail. Certain nationalities are targeted…at the moment especially people from Pakistan, Algeria, Marocoo and Bangladesh which are the people that are very unlikely to be granted asylum.
These arrests are part of a bigger strategy. Since many months the plan of the EU and the Greek government is to empty the islands, speed up deportations, lock up more people. Therefore the people arrested in the past weeks are either forced to apply for asylum if they didn’t do so yet. If they already had their asyulm rejected they are incarcerated and will most likely be deported. All has been going on for months now but we feel that now its getting more serious, and more fast. The following text wants to be a summary of what´s going on politically now on Lesvos and tries an analyzis of changes in the coming weeks and months.
On 8th of December 2016 the European Commission published a report about the « Progress made in the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement ». The asked to « speed up processing of asylum applications on the Greek islands » and state that « further efforts are needed, […] so that the processing of asylum applications at first instance is expedited and that the number of returns is increased and sustained ». [i]
According to this report « In total, 1,187 irregular migrants were returned from Greece to Turkey in the course of 2016 under the EU-Turkey Statement or the Greece-Turkey bilateral readmission protocol. […]Non-Syrian migrants are being returned to Turkey by boat and transferred to a removal centre […] Reportedly, so far 47 persons submitted their applications to the Turkish authorities […] So far, 417 persons, who did not apply for a refugee status in Turkey, have been returned to their countries of origin. »[ii] Among the people deported were also 93 Syrians. According to this report 163 people from the islands persons returned « voluntarily » to their country of origin since 28 September 2016.
The greek press [iii] also wrote about the will of Greek government, enforced by European authorities as Frontex, to speed up the deportation back to Turkey. According to these report the number of people on the islands will be cut by half until mid April 2017.
The greek authorities plan to put people in jail after their interview has been rejected. Even if they appeal a negative decision, they can be incarcerated during the time of their appeal. This concerns especially certain nationailites (see above) that have low chances for asylum recognition. Although detaining people by nationality is illegal in principal, greek authorities can do it until a court pronounces these incarcerations as illegal. For this increase of incarcerations, Authorities are already planning new « pre-removal centers » on the islands[iv]. We are at this moment not sure how these plans will be implemented on Lesvos. While reports speak about a new pre-removal center being planned, there is also the option of Moria turning more and more into a closed camp. In the past weeks, families and nationalities with chances of asylum in Greece (as Syrians) have been moved out of Moria camp, leaving mostly single men behind.
But not only in Greece we will see a worsening of conditions for people and a raise of the incarceration of people based on the sole fact of being « irregular » migrants with low chances of being granted asylum. There are also strong concerns about the conditions of returnees back in Turkey. Reports show [v] that people that are placed in closed camp respectively detention centers have very limited or no acces to legal or medical support. Furthermore the living conditions are very bad and personal belongings including mobile phones (which are essentiel to get in touch with a lawyer) are confiscated by the police. As that would not be enough we also repetedly hear stories of violence and abuse towards asylum-seekers and migrants in these centers. Plus, the Turkish government has been already breaking the Non-refoulment principle, and is sending back people to unsafe countries.
Furthermore the European Commission also recommended the re-implementation of deportations from EU-member states back to Greece under the Dublin agreement [vi] in December and thus putting even more pressure on the Greek asylum system. Several countries, including Germany, have announced to start again the deportations. That will concern people that enter Greece after March 15th.
As we wrote before, Lesvos is not anymore a door to Europe that is possible to pass. Lesvos and Europe are more and more turned into a revolving door. Many countries in the north of Europe, for example Germany, are increasing deportations to peoples countries of origin (in the last weeks Germany deported many people to Afghanistan) and will start to send people back to Greece. Greece will raise the number of people being deported to Turkey and Turkey deports people to their country of origin. All completely ignoring human rights, bad living conditions of people and also ignoring the risks of persecution in the peoples country of origins. All this happens on the false assumptions that the countries where people are returned to (be it Greece, Turkey or Afghanistan) are « safe »…an assupmtion thats always very far from the reality that´s people face in these countries after their return.